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UN official: BRI's scope goes beyond economic gains

By HONG XIAO | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-04-30 09:27

Initiative also offers cultural benefits, promotes mutual understanding

The gains from the Belt and Road Initiative are not just commercial. It goes beyond that.

Miguel Angel Moratinos, high representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, or UNAOC, believes the BRI will bring together different civilizations, cultures and peoples.

"The Belt and Road Initiative is a very ambitious initiative with great economic, diplomatic and cultural benefits," he said, but, "it is important to note the scope of the initiative goes beyond economic benefits".

The BRI promotes mutual understanding among countries involved in the Belt and Road program, Moratinos told China Daily before he attended the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, which was held from Thursday to Saturday. "In doing so, (the BRI) advances multiculturalism and promotes diversity against the backdrop of criticism of multiculturalism," he said.

The goals of the UNAOC and the BRI-particularly in terms of people-to-people exchanges-are aligned with each other, he added.

Since its establishment, the UNAOC has served as a soft-power political tool promoting shared values, trends and beliefs of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, supporting the UN secretary-general's agenda on conflict prevention and resolution.

A career diplomat from Spain, Moratinos was appointed by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres as his high representative for the Alliance of Civilizations in January.

The UNAOC places special emphasis on intercultural and interreligious dialogue in promoting understanding and respect between identity-based groups.

Moratinos said that China, as a member of the UNAOC, "always strives to develop its diplomatic relations and economic and cultural exchanges with other countries in line with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights".

As one of the first member states to join the group of friends of the UNAOC, China has had many cultural exchanges with the UNAOC, Moratinos said.

He mentioned the Chinese Action Plan released in 2015, which says the BRI extends beyond building infrastructure. Connectivity between people is one of the main goals, which means "promoting cultural, academic and diplomatic connectivity", Moratinos said.

Since the beginning of his tenure, expanding the scope and scale of UNAOC partnerships, particularly with China, has been Moratinos' priority.

He cited a memorandum of understanding that was signed by his predecessor, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, with Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the First Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in 2017.

"We would like to translate this MOU into action," he said. "I have already proposed an exchange program called 'The Silk Road Ambassadors' in order to enhance people-to-people exchanges," he said.

Moratinos said it is expected that the BRI will improve connectivity across Eurasia and connect the neighboring states of Central Asia, as well as the Middle East and Europe.

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